Pest Control Peer Groups 101

As the saying goes: “It’s lonely at the top.” As an owner/manager of a pest control company, you are expected by employees, customers, bankers and other interested parties to know all the answers. Ever feel like you want someone on your side? Someone you can bounce ideas off? Someone who will give you honest criticism and who has been in similar situations? Perhaps joining a peer group for pest control operators or lawn care operators is the answer.

What Are PCO Peer Groups?

An executive peer group is a forum for owners and or managers actively involved with top decision making in their organizations. Ideal candidates are willing to share information about their company’s financial, marketing, operational and strategic plans in order to grow their firms and tackle business issues confronting its members. Peer groups can be geographically specific with members from a variety of industries or industry specific. Industry-specific groups usually comprise noncompetitive firms in different markets.

Groups typically include 8-12 members and harness the collective knowledge of the membership to help overcome the challenges of operating, growing, building value and profitability of their companies. Benefits of peer group membership include:

  • Increased accountability
  • Business owners with similar backgrounds to bounce ideas off
  • A strong support network
  • Access to professionals with complementary strengths
  • Improved delegation skills
  • Higher quality of living
  • Increased profitability
  • Business coaching input
  • Improved level of business expertise

Members typically sign a nondisclosure agreement preventing members from sharing financial and operational information and/or trade secrets with anyone outside the group. Many groups include an experienced facilitator using an organized discussion format ensuring all members get heard. One of the largest peer group organizer and facilitator of these forums is Vistage, which offers groups for CEOs, small business owners and key executives in over 1,000 cities worldwide. Their groups are usually not industry specific, but there are many PCOs who belong to Vistage and find membership extremely beneficial and educational.

Other peer groups are run by business coaches and or consultants who have expertise in a particular industry. I’ve been a peer group facilitator for pest control and lawn care peer groups, having industry expertise as well as having many clients that I coach as a value add to my accounting practice.

I now facilitate several of these groups that are industry specific and provide members with insight into their own organizations as a result of our meetings. Our meetings are often hosted at member locations and include sharing financial and operational benchmarks as well as other business information. All of this data, which is compiled prior to the meeting and distributed to each member, form the basis for some interesting conversations that lead to expanded discussion and idea sharing.

How are PCO Peer Groups Run?

Most members of peer groups are like minded and have a lot in common in terms of their business life. However, each peer group that I’ve been involved with takes on its own personality as well as making its own rules with input from each member. PCO peer groups often meet several times per year in person or virtually and communicate via email or message boards in between meetings.

Most peer groups have a set agenda so they can run efficiently. The meeting typically lasts a day or a day and a half. A typical agenda may include:

  • Update on what is happening in each business since last meeting
  • Talk about successful projects and things that have worked well
  • Talk about unsuccessful projects
  • Current frustrations and biggest challenges
  • Accountability for goals set at previous meetings.
  • Comparison of P&L percentages 
  • Goals for the next six to 12 months
  • Three to five questions each member has for the group
  • Recommendations given by the group for each member

Benefits of a Pest Control Peer Group

Think back to your childhood when your parents always wanted you to hang around with “the right crowd.” They wanted you to be in a fertile environment with the kids who were trying to better themselves, sharing ideas and/or seeking achievement. 

When done properly, a peer group is “the right crowd.” Genuine friendships are made and folks are really interested in where your company has been and where your company is going.

During the meetings, members agree on actions to be taken by each individual usually by the next meeting. Most participants report back on the success or failure of those actions, making that member not only accountable to himself but also to the group. Many times if we are only accountable to ourselves, we get busy and push things off. This is especially true if we are the boss and don’t have anyone to answer to. Sometimes having to answer to someone, even if the motivation is to avoid embarrassment, is motivation enough. It allows us to reach down and put a little extra effort in. The benefit is that we implement the action that we know is needed to be done but may not have been done if left to our own devices.

Example of an Owner Who Benefited from a Peer Group

One example from years ago isa member who was quite successful and had a well-established company who mainly “flew by the seat of his pants.” The key to his success was running as hard as he could all the time with very little in the way of advanced planning. His company had several established routes and he marketed mainly in the Yellow Pages (which seemed to be getting less and less effective as time passed), as well as when his gut would tell him to do a radio, cable or SEO campaign.

Most members in the group had their marketing plan laid out on a calendar for the year, breaking up each campaign by date, amount of expenditure as well as expected return. In this manner they were able to analyze which marketing worked, why it worked and which campaign failed and should be discontinued. It was pointed out that “good revenues can mask multiple sins.”

That is exactly what was going on with this gentleman as his routes that were established over the years and provided good revenue. The reason he advertised was because everyone else did it. He had no plan, no budget and no benchmarks to determine if his marketing was working. The peer group helped him establish a marketing plan with a schedule, a budget and expected results. By implementing this plan he concluded that his Yellow Pages ads were no longer working and targeted seasonal advertising in other areas was much more cost effective and should be expanded. He adjusted accordingly.

Contact Us to Learn More about Pest Control Peer Groups

Participation in a peer group can be extremely beneficial for business owners and managers who want to test ideas, share business concepts and work with likeminded business people who hold each other accountable. In my experience, most who participate in these groups see improved results, and in many instances experience renewed excitement in their businesses.

Contact PCO Bookkeepers & M&A Specialists for more information about how your business can can benefit from our pest control industry executive peer groups.

Author: Dan Gordon